Should You Sleep With a Heating Pad?

woman sleeping with heating pad
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If you suffer from sore muscles, cramps, or joint pain, then you probably already have a heating pad or maybe are on the market for one. Perhaps that is why you are researching the benefits that they bring. They are easy to use and effective, but while this therapy treatment seems like a good thing to use as you lay down to take a nap or a long-needed night of sleep, you may want to rethink that. In fact, though they do have a lot of great benefits to take advantage of, sleeping on them can be quite dangerous. Many experts say that it can actually cause more damage than you think.

So, why shouldn’t you fall asleep with your muscles feeling nice and toasty? In this article, we will look at the reasons why there are no more benefits to sleeping with your heating pad than using it during the day. But while we may have dashed your hopes, we will also take a look at why you should use heating pads, how they work, and what to use them for. Let’s start with the supposed benefits of sleeping with heating pad. So, let’s take a more in-depth look at these amazingly helpful tools, shall we?

Should You Sleep with A Heating Pad?

We know that it may be tempting, but sleeping with your heating pad could, as we said, cause more harm than good to both your muscles and your home. Here are some of the primary concerns that could be a problem:

Fire

Though most models nowadays do come with a shut-off safety system, there is still a chance of faulty systems that could lead to potential fire hazards. So, if something doesn’t quite work right and you are snoozing, you could be in serious danger.

Some of the ways that your heating pad could be a fire risk are:

  • Outlets sparking
  • Cover holes
  • Wires fraying
  • Faulty auto shut off mechanism/or no auto shut off
  • Flammable items around it
  • Poorly working on/off switch
  • Burns

Though there are settings and turn off systems, there is still a risk of burning yourself. No matter how low you set your pad, if you fall asleep on it that will be on your skin for an extended time and this could lead to skin irritation and in extreme cases, burns. Prolonged exposure can actually cause wounds as severe as third-degree burns (though this is rare, it is possible).

We know what you are thinking: wouldn’t you wake up? Well, we all have been sunburnt before, and though uncomfortable, still found our way into dreamland. This would be the same feeling. This could be especially hard for those suffering from conditions that may affect their feeling of extremities like diabetes.

Inflammation & Circulation

Heating your muscles is, in essence, helping enhance blood flow to the application area. This is why a heating pad is so good at soothing pain and aches. If you sleep on this tool, you will be continually increasing blood flow. By leaving the heating pad on while you sleep, the blood will continue to flow there and get trapped. This could cause muscle damage and negatively affect your circulation.

This could slow down the healing process as it is often the heat and cold of the application and removal that helps lessen pain and improve healing time. Most physicians and therapists only suggest applying heat for 20 minutes and then leaving it off for 20 minutes before reapplying it.

These are the main concerns with sleeping on your heating pad, and though, as we said, many of the newer models come with systems put in place to stop this from happening, it is still a concern you may want to take under advisement. So when and why should you use a heating pad?

When to Use and Not Use Heat Therapy for Pain & Why

We have kind of already addressed how heat therapy works, but we think it’s essential to go over it again, so you have context when we start talking about when and when not to use this health aid. Heat therapy uses elevated temperatures to promote better circulation and blood flow to the part of the body that is in pain. This will help the muscles expand and give you a release from pain and increased flexibility. There are two main types to consider:

Conducted

This is an easy to apply heat that is associated with heating pads and saunas.

Convection

This is also called moist heat therapy. Many heating pads offer this method, but it is traditionally done with steamed towels or hot baths. It may be more effective as it takes less time for the application to take effect.

There are, of course, other methods, but these are the ones that are readily available to you without the assistance of a physician or therapist.

To Use or Not to Use, That is the Question!

There are some reasons why, though heat pads are very effective, you simply just shouldn’t use one. The use of a heating pad will exacerbate certain illnesses and diseases. These diseases can include:

  • Dermatitis
  • Thrombosis
  • MS
  • Vascular disease
  • Diabetes

Now that we have talked about the how, the why, and the when, let’s take a look at the benefits that you will be able to take advantage of with the purchase of a good heating pad.

Benefits/Drawbacks of Using a Heating Pad

There are heating pads that offer dry, moist, or a combination of each, so we thought we would take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Here they are:

Dry Heat

Once again, this type of heat therapy is also called conductive heat therapy, and it used to be the standard in the heating pad market. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of this form of heating pad:

Benefits

These units are very easy to use. Typically, all to have to do is plug them in and wait for the heat to build up.

They are lightweight and compact and are easy to transport.

Dry heat offers even and consistent heat allocation. Heating pads that are only dry heat do not have pockets of excess moisture like our next type, so there is no variation in temperature.

Drawbacks

Dry heat may dry your skin out. The heat pulls moisture from your skin, and with extended periods of use, you may need to moisturize the affected area a bit more.

Moist Heat

Many heating pads offer this as an option of therapy choices. This is also called convection therapy. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of this form of heating pad:

Benefits

There is little to no chance that your skin will experience dehydration problems.

Moist heat heating pads also allow for deeper penetration into your muscles. In fact, many feel it has a more significant effect on your pain and soreness when used for the exact same time frame.

This can also help improve your recovery time because it enhances blood flow to higher levels than the dry heat option.

This is usually a physician’s recommended treatment for aches and pains, especially if they are chronic.

Drawbacks

One of the biggest issues is that even though the pad is set for a specific temperature, once the water begins to cool, you will feel the difference in heat.

It also takes extra steps, so it is not as easy as using a dry heating pad option.

Now that you have a good idea of the pros and cons of each type of heating pad now, let’s look at the overall benefits of using a heating pad.

Reduction of Pain

The chief reason anyone gets a heating pad is to help alleviate soreness and pain in a shortened time frame. Heating pads not only apply heat to the afflicted area, but they also add a little pressure to the area. The heat then helps that pressure reach deeper into your muscle, which increases blood flow. This, in turn, helps the muscle relax, which then equates to less pain. The reduction of pain and improved blood flow can also lead to improved mobility and flexibility.

Ease of Use

These tools are often built with comfort in mind. They are usually covered with plush soft fabric and typically are lightweight. These tools do not take up much room when stored and can be carried with you on your daily errands or extended trips. This is great for those that have chronic pain issues.

Not only are they easy to transport, but most heating pads are quite easy to use. They tend to come with built-in controls that have several heat settings to choose from. This allows you to customize the level of heat you need for the pain level you feel on that day.

Budget

Therapy or other treatments for pain can bring with them steep bills. That’s why investing in a heating pad can save you tons of money. (If, however, you have severe or chronic pain make sure to consult your physician before only using a heating pad as therapy.) Unless you purchase one specifically built for a particular body part, then this one tool will be able to treat multiple body parts. This means you will not have to spend more of your hard-earned money to help you out with pain.

Versatility

Heating pads are good for fighting pain from many different sources. They can be used to decrease pain from medical issues like arthritis, hernias, and many other ailments. It is also a great tool to use to fight the pain associated with injuries, sprains, and everyday pain and soreness.

This gives this tool wide ranges of use, which will allow you to save money as well, and that on top of being able to treat all of these potential issues makes this an excellent investment.

Overall Health

Though primarily used to alleviate pain, there are many other things that heating pads can be used for to improve your health. You can use heating pads to help with mental and physical health issues. They can be used to help improve sleep due to the decrease in pain. This will, in turn, help improve your mood and health. The improved blood circulation will also help you strengthen your immune system and decrease overall body aches.

These are just some of the many benefits that you will be able to take advantage of with a good quality heating pad in your medicine cabinet.

Safety Tips for the use of a Heating Pad

When using any tool, there are always safety tips that will help protect you and allow you to get the most out of your device. Here are some safety tips for using a heating pad:

  • You will want to minimize use - 20 minutes at a time is perfect.
  • Do not sleep with it on.
  • Try using a layer of something between your skin and the pad like a towel.
  • Apply ointments and oils after you are done using the heating pad.
  • Unless you’re using a moist heating pad, do not use near water.
  • Start at the low end of the temperature settings and build up from there.
  • Follow the unit’s instructions.

Now that you have the basic safety rules for using any type of heating pad, you are set to make your choice. Making sure to follow them will ensure you and your family’s safety while still being able to relieve the pain from your hard day at work.

Final Thoughts

While there are not many benefits of sleeping with heating pad at night, there are plenty of advantages to the proper use of this tool during the day. By understanding when and how to use this health aid, you will be able to soothe your aches and pain, which will allow you to live a healthier and more rested life. No longer do you need to struggle with muscle pains!

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